WASHINGTON -- In an unlikely semifinal between unseeded players, 32-year-old Czech veteran Radek Stepanek outmaneuvered 22-year-old American Donald Young 6-3, 6-3 to book the first spot in Sunday's final at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC.
Stepanek, the oldest player in the top 100, scored yet another win for the older generation of tennis with his win over Young, who last year was the youngest player in the top 100. He awaits the winner of tonight's second semifinal between No. 1 seed Gael Monfils and No. 11 seed John Isner.
Stepanek asserted himself early in the match, reading Young's lefty serve effectively and stepping well inside the baseline to take control of points from his first strike. It couldn't have hurt that Stepanek's three previous opponents in Washington (Wayne Odesnik, Jarkko Nieminen, Fernando Verdasco) were all also left-handed.
Young did not fold quickly, though, and stayed fighting throughout the lopsided 78-minute match.
Stepanek's camp hung a large Czech flag out of their box in the corner of the stadium, and waved smaller Czech flags as well, just in case no one noticed the enormous one.
Stepanek played the first match of the week Monday, and has had his schedule well spaced out throughout the week. His potential finals opponent Gael Monfils would be playing his fifth match in four days if he were to make Sunday's final.
Not that Stepanek will get to rest much, however--he still has to play in tonight's doubles semifinal with partner Tommy Haas against the team of Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau.
Though he (as he had said earlier in the week) winning Sunday's final would give him the biggest title of his career, Stepanek said his wife (and former top ten WTA player) Nicole Vaidisova will be unable to attend the final due to visa issues. Stepanek hopes she will be able to join him by Cincinnati.
Though the run to the semifinals of an ATP 500-level tournament makes this by far the most successful week of Young's tumultuous career, he still seems unsure that this long-awaited success will change any opinions of him.
SBN: Donald, the run you've had this week is likely to change a lot of people's expectations for you going forward. Can you talk about that, and how it changes your own expectations for yourself?
Donald Young: I don't know. I hope it doesn't change. I know there's a lot of mixed feelings about me out there. I don't know if it will change anything. Some people will think it was a lucky week. Some might change, some might still feel the same, just like it's me finally getting there.
And what was the end of your question, again?
SBN: And how does it change your own expectations?
Donald Young: No, it doesn't change. They're still what they were, and I just gotta keep moving towards that top 50, maybe top 20 by the end of the year, or the start of next year.
Young would have to gain an additional 1,000 or so ranking points in these final four months of the season to reach the top 20 by year's end.
Maybe some expectations could use changing.
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